I'm a student who studies English, and I have a sentence I do not understand.

The sentence is from the article which about the search for aircraft that vanished from radar last year. The article said

The search has been anything but smooth.

but I couldn't catch what it means.

I think if they want to express that the search was useless (they've found nothing), they should say

The search has been nothing (not anything).

and I don't know what the "but smooth" means.

Please Let me know about it.

3 Answers 3


but: preposition

apart from
other than

In Texas, we were never anything but poor.

This means In Texas we were never anything except/other than poor.

Synonyms: except (for), apart from, other than, besides, aside from, with the exception of, bar, excepting, excluding, leaving out, save (for), saving

Example: 'Everyone but him' means 'Everyone except for him'.

In the example you give the word 'but' means 'except' or 'apart from' or 'other than', and your sentence means that the search has not been smooth, or that it has been rough.


It means that the search has not gone smoothly.

That is, it has been interrupted repeatedly by events such as bad weather or breakdowns of equipment.


OK, the following answer is not confirmed because I'm also a student.

" the search has been anything but smooth " means it was hard to understand or hard to process.

"but" here means "except"; hence, the writer meant to say that the search was anything except for being an easy search.

Again I'm not a professional, so wait for another answer.

  • 1
    Not quite. I would say it means that the search was "bumpy" -- that there were numerous technical problems. Eg, search aircraft could have encountered mechanical problems, the weather could have been bad, radar data could have contained confusing details, etc.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 20, 2015 at 0:39

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